The New York Times editorialized July 1 with the neutral headline, “At Last, a Transportation Bill,” but the gist of it is that what got finalized – and what President Obama will sign – is pretty good and could have been so much worse. The House version, besides cutting all dedicated funding to bike-ped projects, added unrelated anti-environmental riders that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline bringing filthy bitumen (“tar sands”) down from Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, and prohibited regulation of toxic coal ash from power plants. Click here for my blog post in E Magazine about that.
The Times calls the final bill “serviceable,” noting that both those riders were knocked off. It also creates a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund and sends 80 percent of the civil penalties BP must pay from its 2010 oil disaster to coastal restoration. Click here for an interview I did recently with Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network, in which he hopes for that outcome – the trust fund without the anti-environmental riders.
But check out Transportation for America’s take on the bill. Here are some highlights:
“As a result of this ‘compromise,’ the bill dedicates zero dollars to repairing our roads and bridges, cuts the amount of money that cities and local governments would have received, makes a drastic cut in the money available to prevent the deaths of people walking or biking, and ensures that you have less input and control over major projects that affect you and the quality of your community. Despite record demand for public transportation service, this deal cut the emergency provisions to preserve existing transit service, does little to expand that service and actually removed the small provision equalizing the tax benefit for transit and parking.”
It goes on to mention “a few positives,” though:
“A new grant program will fund community-led planning for neighborhood revitalization around transit lines. And a major increase in federally backed loans could help regions that raise their own transportation funds stretch them farther and build out ambitious transit plans faster. While we didn’t end up with the bill that we were all hoping for, it is clear that this bill represents the last gasp of a 20th century transportation program that has run out of steam.”
And here’s what the League of American Bicyclists had to say:
“On Friday, Congress will vote on a new transportation bill that reverses years of progress on biking and walking policy and cuts by 60 to 70 percent funding for local safety projects such as sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes.”
So, by proposing a radical bill that was so unpopular it couldn’t make it through the House, the Republicans still won pretty big time.